Tag Archives: don’t be sloppy

#SaystheEditor How You Present Yourself Matters


Hope you guys are glad I’m back, even if it’s only temporary.

So here’s the deal. A couple weeks ago, I saw on Facebook an appeal from an author for reviewers.

Not a bad place to look for reviewers. Except…

Well, you KNEW there would be an except. Admit it. And this one, well, it’s one thing to forgive a typo. Facebook is ridden with them and I have yet to meet a grammatically correct meme (although they might be getting better, oddly. Maybe. Might. Or maybe it’s that I’m not on Facebook as much as I had been and so simply see fewer memes).

If I didn’t manage to distract you with that aside about memes, you know where I’m headed: the request for reviewers for the author’s new book was… well, the grammar sucked. And frankly, it didn’t make me want to read his book. In fact, it kinda made me want to undo our connection because clearly, he’s not smart enough to hire me and he’s not careful enough to consider that a potential reviewer might take a look at his poorly worded post with its not-so-charming errors and… expect the same between the covers of his new book.

And that’s the thing: I see authors all the time who undermine themselves this way. Bios with typos. Book cover copy that makes no sense. And the commas! Is it so hard to know when to set off an author’s name in commas and when not to? Cripes. Ask your editor for help if you’re not sure.

If they won’t help you with the little stuff, or they want to charge you an arm and a leg for it, maybe they’re not the right editor for you.

Don’t be this guy. How you present yourself matters.

Check. Double-check. Whatever it is that you’re going to put out in the world, make sure you’re presenting yourself the way you want to be viewed. In this author’s case — I’ve followed him for many years — he’s usually smart, funny, and creative. This post made him look uneducated, crass, and certainly not smart, funny, or creative.

And if you need help, drop me a line. Because I believe that part of making the best book possible is that how you present yourself matters. And that means I’m glad to help you present yourself as smart, funny, and creative — or however you choose to appear.

It’s your choice. But success is hard enough to come by as it is. There’s no need to make it even harder.


#SaystheEditor: A Mistake’s a Mistake


With two degrees in creative writing, I have long struggled to break into the world of publishing. Back in grad school, we were expected to submit our writing to publications — usually literary magazines, as most MFA students focus on short stories — and were even offered free postage (as this was in the Dark Ages, before online submissions). When self-publishing began to be recognized as great for niche works, I turned to it for my own fiction. After all, Rock Fiction historically doesn’t sell well, according to the agents and acquiring editors I spoke with at the time.

Of course, self-publishing continues to be looked down on to this day, although usually by the establishment and readers who are so  burned out on poorly edited books, they can’t see the redwoods in a forest of weeds. I get some of those arguments; I daily see errors that wouldn’t have been made if the author had hired me to work on their book.

Maybe it’s because I’m an editor that keeps me attuned to the small stuff, even when reading books published by the big publishing houses. The one I’m going to pick on now was put out by Grand Central Publishing, which is an imprint of Hachette. It’s a print copy and I have no idea where it came from; it’s been on my shelves for well over five years. Possibly ten. All I can tell you is that it looks like it’s never been read, even now after I’ve read it.

It’s the details we’re focusing on today, so let’s get started. Like when the female lead gets into her friend’s Acura and slides over into the driver’s seat. This actually happens more than once, and both times, I wanted to scream. Would have, too, except it would scare the cats and then I’d have Scared Cat Toenail marks in my legs. Blood usually accompanies those, so … forget it. No screaming, no matter how frustrated I got.

Here’s why: I have had four Acuras in my life, dating back to the 1997 model I leased in ’96. I’ve got two right now. My family and friends have owned Acuras since the original Integra debuted in 1986. And I have never been in an Acura that had a front seat configuration that let a passenger slide across the seat. Hell, I’ve done the climb from bucket seat to bucket seat and let me tell you, it’s hairy, even for a short, flexible woman like myself.

Small? Stupid? Sure. But you know what else? The author could have easily checked this for herself by going to an Acura dealer and trying to slide across the seat in all the models on the showroom floor. She could have researched how Acuras are different from Hondas and realized that the Acura line benefits from the race care technology the company has developed. Race cars are built with cockpits that protect the driver. Sliding around in a race car is a bad thing. Sliding around on a car going around a tight turn is a bad thing. See how that works?

It’s the small details. The romance features a Secret Service agent. You really think that if she were my client, after reading the gaffe with the Acuras, I wouldn’t shoot an e-mail to a buddy of mine who is former Secret Service? Because, frankly, I doubt that any Secret Service agent who wants to keep his job would be given the slip by the president’s daughter. Knowing the author’s already been sloppy, I have a harder time suspending disbelief for the sake of the story.

Oh, and someone should tell both the author and her editor at the big fancy publishing house that Phi Beta Kappa isn’t a sorority. It’s not a fraternity, and it’s not something a person can rush. It’s an honors society, formed at the College of William and Mary in 1776.

THAT mistake reveals more about the author and her editor than I think either wanted the world to know…

And we’ll leave it at that, except to say that yes, mistakes happen. Every publisher, whether it be a big corporation or an author him/herself. We all make mistakes.

Just don’t go vilifying an entire subset of the publishing industry for something endemic across the industry.


Now, all this said, mistakes do happen. Yes, I’d have caught these sloppy attempts at research, but I’m sure there are other details I’ve let slip. I do trust my authors to a degree, and as an editor, I make no claims to catch every mistake you make. I’m not liable if something you say isn’t true, and I’m pretty up front about that. However, I’m also not a big publishing house with the funding — one would assume, although in today’s climate, all bets are off — to hire fact checkers. Because you’d think that a company interested in earning millions would care enough about the quality of the work they put their name on. I sure do.


#SaystheEditor Proofing Ain’t Just for Your Book


This is something I’ve run across … oh, probably as long as I’ve been blogging. And if you look carefully, you’ll see I’ve been blogging here at West of Mars since 2006. That’s a long time for this trend to continue, especially because it’s not a particularly flattering one: authors who write blog posts, either as a guest or at their own home, that are full of typos and grammatical errors. (and I  mean FULL. A few obvious typos are one thing. I’m talking about squinting and wondering if this person knows the language at all.)

Sometimes, as in the case of the post I read this  morning, it’s clear the author doesn’t understand the rules. This distresses me. How can someone expect to write a book if they don’t know basic grammar rules?

The answer to that is pretty obvious, right? I’m not the only great (and patient) editor out there.

So, okay. Fine. Authors use great editors for their fiction. Good. That’s how it should be. We editors love to work behind the scenes and  make our authors’ words all shiny and pretty. And even when we’re not the editors, we still appreciate that you, the author, used a colleague to make sure your words are the best representation of you that they can be.

If you’re an author who does any sort of written promo, don’t hesitate to ask your editor to work on it for you! From your newsletter to any guest blog posts or even interviews. If it’s written and you know you’re not the best at remembering your/you’re or the like, speak up. Yes, it may cost you more than the promo will earn you, but on the other hand, it’s an expense worth it, from where I sit. Even if you have to find another editor who’ll handle only your promo work — and  yes, we do that at West of Mars. Keep your fiction editor and use us for your promo. No worries there; no pressure to change if you love your fiction editor.

The reason I do this  isn’t to pad my own bottom line. I offer these services cheap, after all.

Nope. That’s not why I am pushing it, and it’s not why I offer it.

It’s because people form impressions about you based on your written words. Don’t put yourself in the situation where a reader adores your book, thinks you’re the best writer since Truman Capote … and then gets turned off when they read a sloppy guest post.

Always, always, always put your best written self forward. Find the people you need to make this happen, if it’s me or if it’s someone else.

It’s your career. Make it represent you at your written best.